I love the Hunger Games trilogy. I loved the books and I enjoy the movies. Just yesterday I put Catching Fire on while I was folding the laundry. One of my favorite lines comes up when Katniss and Haymitch are talking about keeping Peeta alive. Haymitch says, “Katniss, when you’re in the arena, remember who the real enemy is.”
Katniss has never been especially good at making friends and she is quick to judge a situation, declare it as she sees it, and react. There was a much bigger plan that Katniss couldn’t see, and because she didn’t know about it she became a bit of a risk. Haymitch needed to remind her that the enemy wasn’t the other tributes. She needed to stay alive, but she also needed to trust some of the other victors to make this plan really work.
In Ephesians 6 Paul urges the church to prepare for battle. Before he gets into the specifics of which weapons they will need, he reminds them who the real enemy is. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
We are so much like Katniss. We can be so quick to defend ourselves and come up with strategy. Some seek out trouble to get rid of like a hunter stalking his prey. We like to list all of the rules and all the kinds of people we shouldn’t be friends with. We become argumentative instead of loving. But Paul says, “Christians, when you’re in the world, remember who the real enemy is.”
We feel threatened by someone and say, “that’s the enemy!” We have decided to wage war against those who are not like us. They don’t believe what I believe and, therefore, they’re our enemy. We don’t follow Jesus’ advice and love our “enemies” and pray for them. Instead we write long blog posts, post controversial subjects online. We have gathered up all of our armor: truth, righteousness, and readiness…And we use those things to defend ourselves against other people.
Our real enemy isn’t the pro-choice camp. Our real enemy isn’t against those who choose to or not to vaccinate their children. My enemy is not the person who things I’m an idiot for believing in God. My true enemy isn’t the president or congress. My enemy isn’t my teacher, neighbor, or the alcoholic next door. And yet, we act like they are.
I’ve been criticized by a few people for being ambiguous about my stance on various social or political issues. I choose 99.9% of the time to NOT post things on Facebook or write blogs about things that are going to ultimately hurt my relationships. Some people might view this as cowardice. They may accuse me of being afraid of what someone might think of me. And I would be lying if I said that I don’t value other peoples’ opinions of me. I do value that. It does matter to me if someone thinks I’m a jerk. But it is much more than that.
In Matthew 22:15-22 the pharisees challenge Jesus about taxes. They ask him flat out if it was lawful to pay taxes or not. They wanted to catch him in some kind of lie. They were searching for a way to discredit him. Jesus knew this and responded by saying, “give Caesar what is due Caesar. Give God what is due God.” Jesus really didn’t answer their question. And he really didn’t answer it in the way they’d hope. He knew they were trying to trap him and alienate him from those to whom he was ministering. They saw Rome as an oppressive force that needed to be destroyed. But Jesus didn’t say, “do off with Rome,” even though he knew it wouldn’t be long before he was hanging on a Roman cross. Instead he called the Pharisees hypocrites.
After being tortured and taunted, Jesus hung on a cross. He could have said, “curse you all!” He could have made them all blind with a word. He could have caused them to all feel the pain he was feeling at that moment. He could have chosen that time to go through scriptures about why he is the messiah and why they are all crazy. He could have chosen to defend himself….instead, he simply said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” If anyone was an enemy, you’d think it would be those who literally hung him up on that cross. But Jesus knew that they were not the true enemy.
There are so many people who hate the church because it’s filled with a bunch of self-righteous snobs. That’s how they feel. Now, I go to church and I know that isn’t true. I know that there are people in the church who turn people away. I also know that the church is filled with kind, loving, generous people. Sadly, however, many people have not had the same experience.
So here’s the thing. I refuse to sit and post a public stance about what I believe so that I am trapped. I refuse to do away with friends because we disagree on a topic. I believe it is far more valuable to be a friend than it is to create enemies. I believe I can pray for people with whom I disagree. I can love them. And maybe, just maybe, someday they with be in a place when they’re ready to consider Christ and I will not have hindered them by my words or actions. I don’t want to be the reason someone says they won’t even consider believing in God. I don’t want someone to say, “Well, if Kristin is a picture of what a Christian is, then I don’t want to be one.”
Those people are not my enemies. I choose to not respond to every offensive Facebook post. I choose to not play the victim. I believe that the Bible is true, pure, and reliable. I believe what it says. I choose not to stand in the town square holding up signs and saying, like the Pharisee, “thank you, God, that I’m not like so-and-so…” I wage war NOT against other people…but against my self, and against the Devil and his schemes. Just like the rebels in the Hunger Games, God has a bigger plan at work. He knows that we are a reactive kind of people. He knows that we are quick to try to defeat our enemies. So he has warned us, through Paul, to remember who the real enemy is.